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Dmitry Shniger embraces the challenges of an LLM in Canada

June 13, 2024

Elisa Romano

When Dmitry Shniger relocated to Toronto in 2023, he thought he might be finished with the legal profession.

Despite building an impressive legal resume over more than a decade of practice in his native Russia – including stints as an in-house counsel, a university law lecturer in law and a commercial litigator with several victories at the country’s Supreme Court – Shniger felt as though he would be starting again from scratch in a common law jurisdiction.  

“I did consider a professional change, in anticipation that it would be very difficult to convert to a legal career in Canada, where the system is completely different, because my previous education and experience might be seen as irrelevant,” he says.

However, the shocking events in his home country, as well as Shniger’s own penchant for a challenge inspired him to recommit to the profession and pursue an LLM in Canada.  

“The law is what I know. I have a good idea of what lawyers do and how important the rule of law is for society, so I decided to stay in the legal field,” he says. “One has to be honest with oneself about how difficult it is to make a transition to practice in Canada, but it is not impossible.”

“So far, I would say that the developed common sense and the understanding of human psychology that I learned as a lawyer in a civil jurisdiction have helped me a lot,” Shniger adds.

When he enrolled in Osgoode’s full-time Professional LLM in Canadian Common Law program, Shniger says a key attraction was the way its core courses are specifically designed to meet the requirements of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s National Committee on Accreditation.

But it’s the counselling and career support services available to students that have really stood out to him in practice, he adds.

“The substantive work is intense, but it is our responsibility and we can do that alone,” Shniger explains. “Where we need help is with the unwritten rules about how the profession operates and what you should do to readjust your mindset. This is where the student services have been very useful.”

Shniger has also made sure to tap into the additional resources available to him as a result of OsgoodePD’s place in the greater York University community.

“The writing support, language, and learning skills development services have been very important to me,” he says.

The hard work and dedication Shniger has put into obtaining his LLM in Canada is paying off: ahead of his graduation, he has already secured an articling position at an insurance law boutique that will keep him on track to meet his target to be called to the bar in Ontario in 2025.

In contrast to his professional challenges, Shniger’s adjustment to life in a new country has proven virtually effortless.

“I loved Canada and Toronto from the first day,” he says, adding that it helped that the cold winters and long commutes in his adopted hometown were reminiscent of his old life in Moscow.

“I believe that huge cities like Moscow, Toronto, London and New York have very much in common, which made the transition very easy,” Shniger says.

And Shniger has wasted no time in getting to know his new city, embracing every opportunity to attend cultural events and explore his surroundings with both locals and fellow newcomers alike. For example, he had barely touched down in Toronto before joining a group of new friends to indulge his love of architecture at Doors Open Toronto, an annual event that provides free access to several of the city’s most loved buildings and sites.

Although he had visited Toronto as a tourist during his undergraduate studies, Shniger had little other personal experience on which to base his expectations for his new life studying for an LLM in Canada, forcing him to fall back on national stereotypes instead.

Luckily, he says this country’s reputation as home to a courteous and welcoming population is well earned.

“In my experience, Canadians are very clever, polite and friendly,” Shniger says. “Toronto is a good place for immigrants. The city is so diverse, and everyone is very tolerant. I have never had anyone look at me strangely because I speak with an accent or sometimes struggle to express myself correctly.”

Less than a year on from his arrival to study for an LLM in Canada, he says Toronto already feels like home.

“It feels good living in a vibrant, multicultural, prosperous city where there is always something going on,” he says.

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